The East Tennessee State baseball team saw North Florida walk the line as a part of a 12-run sixth inning as the visiting Ospreys left Thomas Stadium with a 13-4 decision in the series finale.
“It was a huge game for us as far as our season, and being early in the conference season just as a game we felt like we needed to win,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “We just couldn’t hold it together ... it all points to the one bad inning.”
The Bucs have a 15-14 record overall and a 4-8 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference. They’ll try to rebound Tuesday at UNC-Asheville, then host Tennessee on Wednesday.
North Florida (20-14) took the series with wins in the final two games and leaves Johnson City with a similar 4-8 conference record.
In that marathon sixth inning Saturday, the Ospreys got started with a pair of walks to T.J. Gavlik and Andrew Karmeris. A fielding error on a potential double-play grounder to Derke Niesman at second loaded the bases.
After that, Tyler Marincov worked an 0-2 count into a RBI walk. A strikeout was followed by a sacrifice fly to right, giving the Ospreys a 3-2 lead with two outs.
Another fielding miscue after a single to right by Joe Wielbruda allowed two more runs to score. Another walk, the fourth of the inning, ended the day for ETSU’s Jake Long on the mound.
The sophomore hurler was tagged for the loss after throwing 5 2/3 innings. He was responsible for the first seven runs, but only the score in the fifth went into the earned column. He did not walk a batter until the sixth and struck out five Ospreys.
The pitching change brought in Will Chesney, who saw Corey Bass double down the line in left for another run. Skole went to the bullpen again to bring in Science Hill alum Will Carter. He uncorked a wild pitch before Gavlik doubled into the gap in left center. Karmeris added a RBI triple to center.
On came Logan Rice, who surrendered a two-run homer to Marincov.
“That’s something that hasn’t happened to us all season, an inning that got away from us like that,” Skole said. “I know we had walks and a couple of errors. We just weren’t mentally tough enough to step up in that situation to stop the bleeding and it got away from us. I give North Florida credit, they took advantage of the opportunity we gave them and they made the most of it.”
North Florida posted the 12 unearned runs on six hits and half a dozen walks as 16 batters went to bat. In comparison, only 12 Ospreys went to the plate in the final three innings.
“We had one good inning and it snowballed after that,” North Florida head coach Smoke Laval said. “We don’t have that consistency so I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Going into the sixth the Bucs enjoyed a 2-1 lead and were looking to add to their perfect 12-0 record when up after five innings this season.
Earlier ETSU took a 2-0 lead thanks to a two-out rally. It was capped when Clinton Freeman powered a triple to left center for two runs. Before that Matthew Scruggs doubled to left center, a ball that one-hopped off the fence, and Andrew Green was hit by a pitch.
North Florida’s first run came when Alex Bacon hit a solo home run under the scoreboard frame in left during the fifth inning.
Bacon, Gavlik and Marincove each had two hits for the Ospreys. Marincove and Bacon both drove in three runs apiece. All nine starters scored at least once.
After the Ospreys’ sixth, the Bucs were able to respond with a pair of runs in the bottom half. Chris Riopedre singled to left center and Dylan Pratt raced home. Pratt reached on a throwing error to start the frame.
Later, Niesman scored on a wild pitch that came on a strikeout.
Tyler Moore gave North Florida 6 2/3 innings in the start to run his record to 4-1. He scattered six hits and struck out nine over 117 pitches.